Home DESTACADOS Health Expert Compares Nutritional Value Of U.S. And EU Snacks

Health Expert Compares Nutritional Value Of U.S. And EU Snacks

by Author Contribution
For our analysis, we selected 10 of the most popular snacks, considering their sales volumes in both European and American markets.

Snacks, whether for a quick energy boost or a treat, play a significant role in our diets. However, not all snacks are created equal, especially when comparing those from different regions.

With the expertise of Sandra Vigelienė, who holds a degree in Global Nutrition and Health, our team evaluated various snacks from the European Union and the United States.

We examined the differences in beneficial ingredients like dietary fiber and protein, as well as those whose consumption should be limited, such as added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats.

For our analysis, we selected 10 of the most popular snacks, considering their sales volumes in both European and American markets.

Key highlights

  • Servings and calories. Serving sizes differ between U.S. and EU snacks. With U.S. snack servings being higher, there is a potential for excessive consumption of calories from processed foods.
  • Sodium. Sodium content in U.S. snacks tends to be higher compared to EU counterparts.
  • Saturated fatty acids (SFAs). SFA levels and other unfavorable ingredients, such as saturated fats, added sugar, and salt, seem to be higher in sweet snacks and EU snacks tend to have lower SFA levels than U.S. ones.
  • Total sugar. The total sugar content in both EU and U.S. snacks is relatively high. Some U.S. snacks may have a higher total sugar content per serving.
  • Dietary fiber. EU snacks do not provide dietary fiber amounts on the label, while the dietary fiber content of the evaluated U.S. snacks seems to be low.
  • Protein. Both EU and U.S. snacks contain similar protein amounts per serving, however, the amounts would not significantly contribute to daily recommended intakes.
  • Micronutrients. EU snacks do not provide micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) composition on nutrition labels. U.S. snacks only show percent Daily Value percentage (%DV). However, considering the overall nutritional composition, these snacks are not an optimal source of micronutrients.
Brand Serving size (g) Calories (kcal) Total fat Saturated fat (g) Trans fat (g) Polyunsaturated fat Monounsaturated fat Cholesterol (mg) Sodium (mg) Total carbohydrate (g) Dietary fiber (g) Total sugars (g) Incl. added sugars (g) Protein (g) Vitamin D (%) Calcium (%) Iron (%) Potassium (%)
Snickers (U.S.) 53 250 12 4.5 0 < 5 125 32 1 28 26 4 0 4 0 4
Snickers (EU) 50 244 12 3.9 128 30 26 4.4
Haribo Goldbears (U.S.) 30 100 0 0.1 5 23 14 2
Haribo Goldbears (EU) 25 87 0.1 0 7 19.2 11.5 1.7
Resee’s Peanut butter Cup (U.S.) 42 210 12 4.5 0 < 5 135 24 2 22 21 4 0 4 6 4
Resee’s Peanut Butter Cup (EU) 42 219 12.3 4.5 136 24 23.6 21.7 4.5
Twix (U.S.) 51 250 12 7 0 < 5 105 34 < 1 25 23 2 0 4 4 2
Twix (EU) 50 246 11.8 7 80 32 24 2.2
Pringles Original (U.S.) 28 150 9 2.5 0 0 150 16 < 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 2
Pringles Original (EU) 30 159 9.3 0.9 120 17 1.1 1.8
Skittles (U.S.) 61.5 250 2.5 2.5 10 56 45 45 0
Skittles (EU) 45 179 1.9 1 4 40.1 33.2 0
KitKat (U.S.) 42 210 11 7 0 5 30 27 1 22 19 3 2 4 6 2
KitKat (EU) 41.5 209 10.2 5.6 36 25.9 1 20.5 2.9
Doritos Nacho Cheese (U.S.) 28 150 8 1 0 0 210 18 1 1 2 0 2 0 0
Doritos Nacho Cheese (EU) 30 150 7.8 1 144 17.3 1.7 0.8 2
Oreos (original) (U.S.) 34 160 7 2 0 0 130 25 < 1 14 14 1 0
Oreos (original) (EU) 33 156 6.6 1.8 96 22.5 0.9 12.3 1.8
M&Ms Peanut (U.S.) 28 140 8 3 0 0 15 17 1 14 13 3 0 2 4 2
M&Ms Peanut (EU) 28 144 7.3 3.1 11.2 16.2 14.8 2.8

General overview: serving sizes and calories

According to the FDA, the serving sizes found on nutritional labels of different snacks usually reflect the amount of particular snacks people tend to consume. Considering potential differences due to regulatory standards and even marketing practices, the serving sizes of the same snacks can differ greatly between Europe and the U.S.

While a slight difference of a few ounces/grams between snacks from different continents may not have a tremendous impact on daily calorie intake, some U.S. snacks have higher serving sizes compared to EU snacks.

For example:
U.S. Skittles lists a serving size of 2.17 oz (61.5 g) with 250 kcal, while EU Skittles often come in servings like 1.6 oz (45 g) with 179 kcal or even smaller 0.6 oz (18 g).

These discrepancies in servings can affect overall caloric intake, especially for U.S. consumers. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, only 15% of daily calories (about 250–350 kcal) should come from discretionary foods like snacks. A single package of U.S. Skittles, as a suggested serving, can nearly match such a daily allowance, leaving little to no room for other discretionary foods that tend to be incorporated throughout the day, e.g., drinks or fried foods, thus increasing the possibility for excessive calorie intake.

Non-beneficial ingredients

Non-beneficial ingredients in snacks include added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats, which can contribute to various health issues like obesity, hypertension, and heart disease.

Sodium (salt) content

Sodium is vital for physiological functions. However, excessive and insufficient long-term sodium intake is expected to have adverse health consequences. In the U.S., nutrition labels list sodium content directly. Meanwhile, within the EU, nutrition labels often include the amount of salt (sodium chloride).

Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that most adults should consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium daily. Meanwhile, both WHO and EFSA recommend 2,000 mg/day of sodium, equivalent to roughly a teaspoon (5 g/day) of salt.

Some differences in sodium content can be seen between EU and U.S. snacks. For example, similar serving sizes of Nacho Cheese-flavored Doritos in the U.S. version can potentially have 66 mg more sodium per serving than their EU counterparts.

Similar differences in higher sodium content in U.S. versions of snacks can be noted in Pringles (30 mg higher), Skittles (6 mg higher), Twix (25 mg higher), Oreos (14 mg higher), and M&M’s (3 mg higher).

However, Snickers, Haribo Gold bears, Resee’s, and KitKat seem to contain around 1–6 mg more sodium per serving in EU versions compared to U.S. counterparts.

It is important to note that discrepancies in serving size calculations may contribute to slight differences in sodium content between EU and U.S. snacks.

While the sodium levels from both the EU and the U.S. do not exceed the recommended levels in the dietary guidelines, even slightly higher levels in sodium content per serving can add up quickly, especially with processed foods. A serving of chips like Pringles or Doritos, which usually constitute a handful, may contain 7–9% of daily sodium value, highlighting the importance of mindful consumption, especially when sodium content tends to be higher in such U.S. snacks.

Saturated fats

Health authorities in the U.S. and EU countries advocate for limiting the intake of saturated fats. A diet high in saturated fatty acids (SFAs) has been associated with cardiovascular disease.

Both the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the WHO suggest limiting SFA intake to less than 10% of total daily calories. Even at the standard reference of 2,000 kcal per day for adults, this would equate to around 22 g of SFAs per day.

While all reviewed snacks do not contain tremendous amounts of SFAs per serving, unexpectedly, reviewed sweets such as Twix or KitKat contain higher SFA levels, ranging from 5–7 g per serving in both EU and U.S. versions compared to the savory reviewed snacks from EU and U.S.

Sweet snacks, as such, contain chocolate, caramel filling, nuts, cocoa butter, or butter fat, explaining the higher SFA content in sweet snacks compared to reviewed savory ones.

While both EU and U.S. versions of reviewed snacks contain similar amounts of SFAs, EU Snickers, Pringles, Skittles, and KitKat seem to have slightly fewer SFAs per serving than their U.S. counterparts.

This trend is especially noticeable for U.S. Pringles, with the difference in SFAs being around 1.6 g higher than EU Pringles. Also, the difference between the EU KitKat and the U.S. one is around 1.4 g of SFAs with the U.S. KitKat being higher.

According to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, approximately 5% of daily calorie intake (or around 11 g of SFAs) is already attributed to SFAs inherently found in nutrient-dense foods, leaving little room for additional SFA intake in a healthy dietary pattern.

While it is generally suggested to reduce daily SFA intake in the diet, considering that SFAs are higher in sweets, one serving of certain sweets can already come close to the suggested daily limits. Thus, it is recommended to limit the intake of sweet snacks, consume smaller servings, or eat sweets less often.

Total sugar and added sugar

Excessive consumption of ‘free sugars’ — all sugars present in foods and drinks, apart from those naturally found in milk, whole fruits, and vegetables, has been linked to numerous health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

According to dietary guidelines, around 19% of added sugar in the diet comes from desserts and sweet snacks. Both European and American dietary recommendations state that a healthy dietary pattern limits added sugar to less than 10% of the daily calorie intake. In a 2,000 kcal diet, this equates to around 50 g per day.

In the U.S., nutrition labels specify ‘Added Sugar’ per serving for snacks, while in the EU, only ‘Total Sugars’ are included. Looking at U.S. snack nutrition labels, most of ‘Total Sugar’ is attributed to ‘Added Sugar.’ For example, U.S. Snickers per serving of one bar (1.8 oz/53 g) contains 26 g of added sugar out of 28 g of total sugar.

The reviewed snacks with the highest total sugar per serving include Snickers, Resee’s Peanut Butter Cup, Twix, Skittles, and KitKat. The sugar content in both the EU and U.S. versions ranges from 22 g to 26 g per serving.

However, the trend of difference in ‘Total Sugar’ content between the EU and U.S. versions can still be noted, with the EU versions having slightly less ‘Total Sugar’ per serving. The highest difference is observed in Skittles, where the sugar content in the EU version of the snack is 12 g lower.

Consuming even a serving of sweet snacks on our list can contribute to nearly half the recommended daily limit. This leaves little room within healthy diet guidelines, especially considering the added sugars in a variety of other foods, such as beverages, condiments, and packaged foods.

Beneficial ingredients

Beneficial ingredients in snacks include dietary fiber and protein, which support digestive health and help maintain muscle mass.

Dietary fiber

According to the American dietary guidelines, more than 90% of women and 97% of men do not meet the recommended intake of dietary fiber in the U.S. Some scientific studies attribute potential dietary fiber benefits, especially to gut health, cardiovascular health, and even weight management.

American Dietary guidelines for dietary fiber intake vary depending on sex and age. However, it is generally recommended to have around 14 g of fiber per 1,000 kcal intake per day.

With a standard 2,000 kcal daily intake, one should consume around 28 g of dietary fiber per day. Similarly, European recommendations suggest that an adequate intake of fiber per day should be around 25 g.

While there was limited data on dietary fiber for the EU snacks, it can be noted that U.S. Snickers, Resee’s Peanut Butter Cup, Twix, Pringles, and even Dotiros have a relatively low dietary fiber content per serving at around 1–2 g.

Such foods tend to include refined carbohydrate sources during manufacturing that are stripped away of fiber-rich parts, which reduces the amount of dietary fiber. While processed snacks may seem like a convenient way to add extra fiber, unfortunately, the fiber content in many popular processed snacks is usually too low to support the daily dietary fiber needs.

FULL REPORT 

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The Views Expressed In This Article Belong Solely To The Original Author, And We Assume No Responsibility For Its Accuracy, Completeness, Or Any Consequences Arising From Its Use.

The Views Expressed In This Article Belong Solely To The Original Author, And We Assume No Responsibility For Its Accuracy, Completeness, Or Any Consequences Arising From Its Use.

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